According to a secret clause, a million Russians could be mobilized. Meanwhile, plane tickets out of Russia are sold out and some people cross borders on foot
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After the first moment of ‘shock’ and the night of protests, Russia begins the harvest of sudden soldiers. It is expected that a total of 300,000 Russian reservists are called up for military service during the recruitment drive, according to Defense Minister Serguei Shoigu. But the scope of the mobilization could be greater given the vague wording of the decree.
Some have already said goodbye to their families. In Blagoveshchensk, a city in eastern Russia near the border with China, men of various ages boarded a white bus with crestfallen heads on their way to a front 8,000 kilometers away. A sad trumpet melody bid them farewell heading for some hurried training sessions. A similar scene was seen in Artem, near Vladivostok, hugs and tears before leaving for a war of blurred contours. The men are given an hour to pack their things and report to the recruiting centers. Then the army disposes.
War is knocking at the door in cities all over Russia. Since early morning, dozens of videos have appeared online showing groups of men boarding buses or planes. Or waiting their turn at recruitment centers to confirm that they have received the citation.
There is anger in the poorest regions. In Dagestan, a video showing people angrily confronting a pro-war official at a recruiting center. “They are fighting for the future of their children,” a woman mediated in front of those gathered in front of the municipal building. “We don’t have a present, what kind of future are they talking about?” a man in the crowd responded.
There is no reservist recruiting priority order, but you start with those who have adequate specialties in the military field and combat experience. Private soldiers up to 35 years old are sought and the presence of women will be minimal. The sick and those with four or more small children are spared, says the ministerial order.
Fears grow every hour that almost any man between the ages of 18 and 60 could be mobilized. Human rights groups offering help to soldiers or potential recruits are overwhelmed by inquiries. “Previously, we had about 50 requests per day, but in the last two days we have received 14,000,” a mediator told The Moscow Times.
Nobody knows how extensive the mobilization will be before the end of the year. One of the clauses of the decree is secret. From the presidential office it is clarified that it refers to the final number of mobilized. According to what a source close to the Kremlin told ‘Novaya Gazeta Europa’, what is written there and the public cannot see is that up to a million Russians may be called up to fight. The Kremlin rejects that figure.
Citations for military service are already delivered at work. Evgeni, 29, a worker at a recreational park in Moscow, had just adopted a stray cat that was the talk of his classmates. This Thursday he has spent the afternoon crying when the officials came to his workplace to tell him that it is time to go to the front. “The poor guy is hysterical, he doesn’t know what to do”explained a colleague to EL MUNDO.
Other times, summonses are served at the place of residence: “They came to see my friend yesterday,” explained Dimitri, an audiovisual technician. “They knocked on the door and gave him the paper.” Others receive it at police stations.
EXODUS BY LAND AND AIR
The Russian government denies that its citizens are leaving the country for fear of being recruited. But already there are hardly any plane tickets left and some land exits have miles of traffic jams.
Ticket prices to fly from Moscow have skyrocketed. More than 5,000 euros costs a one-way ticket to any of the foreign destinations closest to Russia. Prices of up to 8,000 have been seen for those in a hurry. Most scheduled flights have been fully booked for the next few days. The European Commission estimates that half a million people have already left the country. Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov believes that talk of an exodus of men of fighting age is an exaggeration. Images spread by some Russian media and social networks tell another story: long lines of vehicles at the border crossings with Georgia, Mongolia, Finland and Kazakhstan.
This Thursday, cars on their way to Georgia are taking ten hours to cross. In Kazakhstan, many people arrived at the border crossing by taxi and crossed on foot. According to the BBC, most of the drivers in line were young men of fighting age. In the case of Mongolia, images of long queues appeared on social networks: “High season for tourism in Mongolia,” commented ironically one of the people who published the video. the passage through Finland (a country that does restrict the access of Russians, who need a visa) had a normal flow until this Wednesday night, when, according to the Finnish border guard, the traffic has increased by more than a third.
Among the reasons for the increase in queues is, in addition to a greater influx, that Russian police carry out random checks from today. These are interrogations of about ten minutes about their situation regarding military service and the purpose of the trip and prospects for return. There are also inquiries at airports, especially those who have bought the ticket after September 21, the day Putin decreed the mobilization.
TO THE FRONT FOR PROTEST
russian police arrested more than 1,400 people in Russia on Wednesday in protests. The authorities have put in place another method to avoid as much as possible that the weekend has so many influxes in the new mobilizations that are called: as punishment, some of those detained in the protests against the war they were given summonses to go to the front.
The OVD-Info collective, which advises detainees, denounces that these practices took place in up to six Moscow police stations. The wife of one of those arrested says that he was ordered to report to the Sokolinaya Gora police station the next morning to be recruited. Asked about this practice (also denounced in other cities such as Voronezh), Putin’s spokesman has avoided denying that it had happened and, simply, has indicated that it is not against the law.
Most of Wednesday’s arrests have been in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with about 500 arrested each. In Samara, the police detained a woman with a stroller and two children. From jail the opposition leader Alexei Navalny had called for a street war. Although the demonstrations have been peaceful, a few paid attention to him. A Russian military recruiting office was attacked early Thursday in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, 440 kilometers east of Moscow. In Togliatti, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an administrative building.
Vitaly Milonov, the ‘father’ of the “homosexual propaganda” law, has encouraged the Russians to march to the front on Russian television: “If you are a real man, the president has given you a unique opportunity to prove it”. Milonov has recalled the most positive part of him: “Those who enlist will be able to pay their mortgage with the money from the contract.” Some military sources speak of some wages of up to 2,000 euros per month.